Animated videos help health workers, farmers solve woes

SAWBO provides how-to clips that are available in local languages

In Summary

• It produces short videos that empower youth and women through organised groups

• Beneficiaries attest to the positive impact it has had on their work and livelihoods

Esnas Makata shares a light moment with a resident during a training session in Mt Elgon
Esnas Makata shares a light moment with a resident during a training session in Mt Elgon

Videos are a common feature on social media platforms and serve different purposes, from entertainment and general information to education.

Scientific Animations without Borders (SAWBO) is one of those that have been producing and circulating short educational videos that are shared through social media platforms across the globe to provide information on various themes.

It produces short videos on agriculture, health, climate change and resilience and social development that focus on youth and women empowerment through organised groups.

SAWBO is an educational scaling programme based at Purdue University. It produces educational videos to scale knowledge in simple but effective techniques that have largely been overlooked.

It works with USAID, FAO, the World Food Programme and many other groups globally.

Residents in Western, Coast and Central Kenya say the animations by SAWBO have helped them understand and resolve issues in health, agriculture and environment.

Esnas Makata from Kapkateny location in Mt Elgon said he learnt techniques on how to store cereals without applying pesticides during the first meeting he attended organised by SAWBO at Kimono in Kapsokwony.

Makata, a Community Health Volunteer (CHV), said learning how to store cereals without pesticides solved his problem of allergy to some of the powders used to preserve cereals.

“I downloaded the bean storage can. I found it easier to teach my family members not only in Kiswahili but also in Kibukusu, my language, which was easier for my grandmother to understand, and they appreciate this today,” she said.

“I also learned how to download SAWBO animations on health in all my surrounding dialects to make people understand simple and yet ignored concepts easily.” 

I've learnt a lot, not only through the innovative and educational videos but also through direct linkages and interaction with farmers through farmer field days and exhibitions
Brian Otieno


Makata said the animations on health have made his work easier as he downloads and shares them with people living with HIV-Aids.

They learn how to keep themselves healthy by eating well, doing exercise and trying to detect if they have Tuberculosis (TB), and seek early treatment without stigmatisation.

“You know these are people whom you don’t utter some things to directly, but when a small boy or girl is teaching them how to live in an animated video, I can tell when stigma is setting in and set counselling sessions,” she said.

Brian Otieno of Loyola Smart Farm in Busia county said SAWBO, through animated videos, has helped him understand how to go about several agricultural techniques, including raising nursery beds, an issue that has been a problem since his days in school.

He learnt of SAWBO in 2021 while researching a project proposal on proper bean storage techniques.

“I came across an animated video by SAWBO on YouTube, which really up-scaled my proposal,” he said.

“I've since learnt a lot, not only through the innovative and educational videos but also through direct linkages and interaction with farmers from across the country and neighbouring countries through farmer field days and exhibitions.”

Otieno said the programme has helped his family understand how to deal with production and diseases in poultry.

He said SAWBO is a tool for the entire population since it covers a wide range of topics encountered in day-to-day lifestyles. It equips young people with the information and zeal to engage in agricultural production to address food security.

SAWBO team leader Kenya James Kamuye during a training session for farmers in Mumias West
SAWBO team leader Kenya James Kamuye during a training session for farmers in Mumias West


Mung’ang’a sublocation assistant chief Truphena Mutimba said SAWBO arrived in Mumias East through her office after Katatu concepts sought permission to engage the locals on farming, health and environment.

“I helped him mobilise about 165 farmers, who assembled at a local church and participated in the three-day training on agricultural practices, such as preparing compost manure, planting on raised beds and controlling the fall armyworm,” she said.

The administrator said farmers in the sublocation and beyond have drastically reduced post-harvest losses, increased production of compost manure and increased harvests.

She said the community also benefited from knowledge on how to control the Newcastle disease, which has ravaged poultry farmers.

Grace Saghe, a public health officer in Taita Taveta, said animated videos by SAWBO helped her in the management of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“There was a lot of fear, myths and misconceptions during Covid 19 pandemic, being a new disease and people having no experience on how to handle it in the community,” Saghe said.

"SAWBO came up with short, animated videos on precautionary and preventive measures for Covid-19, which I shared with the community through CHVs through social media to pass the knowledge on to residents."

Feswal Abdallaha, a farmer from Murang’a county, said his interaction with SAWBO has helped him gain knowledge on the best farming practices that have increased food production.

He and his family can now effectively tackle worms, especially fall armyworms, which remain a menace in many parts of the country.

“We have become environmentally friendly by increasing tree cover and adopting clean energy by using solar biogas to reduce pressure on forests,” he said.

The programme is coordinated in Kenya by Kataru Concepts, which has developed high-impact countrywide distribution systems via WhatsApp.

Kataru concept founder James Kamuye said his team has translated the animations into dozens of languages, which are freely available for use by anyone for educational purposes.

SAWBO co-ordinator Dr Barry Pittendrigh of Purdue University in the US said animated videos have been created for 130 topics, translated into more than 250 languages and used globally in 120 countries.

“Getting this educational content into a local language is only the first step. The next step is to get that content to people who can use the information to improve something in their lives,” he said.

SAWBO co-director Dr Julia Bello-Bravo said all their rapid work is grounded in a holistic approach to agricultural innovation that combines communication, education and training.

Bello-Bravo said this allows innovators to invest their time and effort in adapting scientific and local techniques that improve soil, produce higher-quality crops and enhance social well-being and income.

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